After an eight year stint in N scale, I decided to return to HO scale in early 2008. For the next two years, I considered various locales to model.
I initially focused on the Cumberland Valley Branch. It’s actually only a few miles from my lifelong home, so I’ve had a decent amount of exposure to it. I pondered modeling the east end of Enola as the yard and engine facility. However, it lacked in scenery and was very light on passenger traffic.
I eventually decided upon the Milroy Branch. I had been fascinated with the Milroy line from an early age. I frequented Penn State football games with my family and the trip to those games passed over the line several times. It had very unique white ballast, compared to the gray ballast typical on Pennsylvania railroads. In my early research, I learned that this fairly short line boasted a ton of traffic during the 1950s. A Bethlehem Steel-owned quarry ran dedicated trains of limestone from a quarry to their steel mills in Johnstown. Standard Steel in Burnham exchanged 30 or so cars a day. And the American Viscose (rayon) plant in Lewistown was busy enough to be shifted twice a day. Lewistown had classification yard at its junction with the main line, as well as a downtown yard for shifting the many inbounds and outbounds from the immediate area. The striking mountain passes and trout streams along the line offered much potential for scenery.
Givens & Druthers:
|Era:||Early fall, early 1950s.|
|Prototype:||Pennsylvania Railroad plus freelance Pennsylvania Midland.|
|Space:||Approx. 32′ by 32′ overall, with obstacles.|
|Governing Rolling Stock:||85′ passenger cars on main line; 50′ cars on secondary lines.|
|Operating Priorities:||• Branch line operations with a meaningful level of switching operations.
• A main line interchange yard with classification opportunities.
• A locomotive maintenance facility.
• Computer-based turnout and signaling control.
• Main line operations, at least at the vignette level.
• Passenger traffic; I love varnish!
• An era and locale where steam and diesel power can coexist.
• Opportunities for stunning scenery.
Digitrax Super Chief DCC system.
Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI).
Construction on the new railroad began in May 2010.
The PRR Middle Division Main Line
The main line is presented as a vignette. The four track mainline makes a 120 foot loop around the train room. There is an in-line 18 track staging yard, with four or five tracks routed to each of the four main line tracks. Each staging track holds a train consist that is “representative” of one or more trains that run during the schedule. Passenger trains are modeled after the actual Makeup of Trains book; freights per the Schedule of Arranged Freight Service.
Other than running the throttle and obeying the signals, there won’t be much for the main line road crews to do. But then again, I have several operators that prefer to run through trains.
The end of staging to the east represents Harrisburg/Enola; to the west, Altoona. Heading west, a train will come out of staging just east of the Lewistown Station, pass the “upper yard” at Lewistown Junction, pass through LEWIS interlocking, pass Mt. Union, then head into staging again.
A few passenger trains stop at Lewistown, but not many. One east bound freight and one west bound freight stop at Lewistown to exchange a block of cars. There is one dedicated freight from Altoona that brings an entire train into Lewistown and takes another back.
LEWIS tower commands a full four-track interlocking at the end of the “upper yard” at Lewistown Junction. An additional set of crossovers in front of the Lewistown station is remoted to the tower. LEWIS talks to WALL tower to the east and JACKS tower to the west. The tower operator controls all signals and switches in the interlocking and maintains the tower sheet.
The operator is also responsible for providing clearance for the use of the Lewistown Secondary and the Milroy Secondary. Passenger traffic ceased on these lines in 1941, allowing them to be downrated from branches to secondaries. Clearances on secondaries is very informal and does not require paperwork; verbal authority is sufficient.
The PRR Lewistown Secondary
The Lewistown Secondary begins at the “upper yard” by the main line. From there, yard crews pick up and drop off interchange traffic for the branch. The Lewistown Junction yard has 19 classification and advance tracks, car shops, MoW stores, and a locomotive facility.
The locomotive facility is larger than one would expect. With a 110 foot turntable, this shop maintained “stand by” power for the main line; typically in the form of M1 Mountains.
The yard prepares an east and west local for the main line each day, plus a dedicated train to the stone quarry at the end of the Milroy Secondary. The yard generates locals for the secondaries on an as-needed basis, and exchanges inbounds and outbounds with a downtown yard.
The downtown yard features numerous online customers, typically in the form of warehouses, a freight terminal, and a passenger station which is no longer in service. A connection to the Furnace Branch Siding leads to a dozen or so online customers, several being fuel dealers.
Beyond the downtown yard the Lewistown Secondary terminates and the Milroy Secondary and the Sunbury & Lewistown Secondary begins.
The PRR Milroy Secondary
The Milroy Secondary is an 11 mile single track run with numerous passing sidings. Originally a “branch”, passenger service ceased in 1941 and the branch was redesignated a secondary. As such, permission to operate is informal and does not require paperwork. Crews communicate with LEWIS tower for permission to run.
Upon entering the branch, while still in Lewistown, the line serves several oil dealers and a creamery, followed by a feed mill.
A mile or so later the line enters Burnham, Pa., where there is a sand quarry, freight station, and Kovalchik Salvage. After crossing the Kish Creek the line enters Yeagertown, Pa., home of Standard Steel. “The Standard” features several sidings for interchange plus a maze of internal trackage. The branch widens here to three tracks to allow numerous runaround operations. There are also two sidings for Yeager’s Mill, which is now in the building products business.
The line then enters Mann’s Narrows. Very steep mountains provide a backdrop for the right-of-way as it snakes along the cascading Kish Creek, a popular trout stream.
Next up is Reedsville, Pa., with a wye interchange with the defunct Kishacoquillas Valley Railroad. There is a runaround track, freight station, and team track. The line then passes through a scenic area, crossing Honey Creek several times.
Naginey, Pa., is the site of a Bethlehem Steel limestone quarry. This hole in the ground yeilds a train load of limestone on a daily basis bound for Johnstown, Pa., to the west. The quarry also ships to other customers.
The end of the line is its namesake, Milroy, Pa. There is a mill here, along with a freight station and a few other interests yet to be researched.